Release Date(s)1979 (September 16, 2014)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/MGM/20th Century Fox (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: B+
- Audio Grade: C
- Extras Grade: D-
Before movies like Armageddon and Deep Impact came along and reaped a whirlwind at the box office, subject matter involving asteroids and meteors potentially falling to Earth and wiping out humanity had already been done to a more unsuccessful degree in Meteor, released in 1979. Taking elements from Fail-Safe and redepositing them into the disaster movie formula of the 1970s, which usually consisted of including a number of notable stars in the main cast and using an array of large scale and explosive special effects, this $22 million dollar turkey sank upon release and was one of the major factors in the downfall of American International Pictures.
When a piece of an asteroid breaks off after a collision with a comet, the large floating slab heads for Earth and threatens its extinction. Working against this is Dr. Paul Bradley (Sean Connery), a scientist responsible for a satellite armed with missiles which circles the Earth in case of an attack from Russia. Secretly, Russia also has a similar piece of technology hovering in the stars, and it’s up to the President of the United States (Henry Fonda), Dr. Alexei Dubov (Brian Keith), his interpreter (Natalie Wood), a NASA scientist (Karl Malden), and a military commander (Martin Landau) to ultimately stop the asteroid before it’s too late.
Directed by Ronald Neame, who also directed The Poseidon Adventure and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Meteor is a bit typical for a disaster movie from this timeframe. Outside of Martin Landau, who spends most of the film angry at everybody, the performances are fairly lackluster. The special effects are also a bit on the schlocky side and have more in common with movies like Starcrash than anything else (not that I’m putting down Starcrash, I love that film). But despite it being thoroughly dated in almost every way, there’s still some drama in it charms you into buying into it. Just as a side note, eagle-eyed viewers should keep an eye out for a brief appearance by Sybil Danning, who was right on the verge of her career as a sex symbol and a B-movie queen.
Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray transfer of Meteor features a fairly strong presentation with well-managed grain levels and some surprisingly robust fine detail. Outside of the effects sequences, it’s also a sharp and precise presentation with good texturing, color reproduction, and skin tones. Black levels are also prominent, but not thoroughly deep. Brightness and contrast levels are adequate while signs of digital enhancements are nowhere to be found. It’s also quite a stable and clean presentation with not much more than speckling leftover. Others may scrutinize it a bit more, but for what it is, it’s a solid presentation. The lone audio option is an English mono 2.0 DTS-HD track. It’s a flat presentation with sound effects and score often roaring over dialogue during dramatic, effects-heavy moments. Despite showing its age a bit, there’s no heavy hiss or distortions to be heard, but there isn’t much in terms of separation or dynamics either. When given the chance, dialogue can be discernable. It probably could have used a wider mix, all things considered, but as is, it’s merely passable. Unfortunately, there are no subtitle options and the only extra that’s been included is the original theatrical trailer for the film.
Kino Lorber’s presentation of Meteor could have used a little sprucing up in the A/V department, and some additional extras would have been nice, but just having the film on disc at all is worth the price. It’s certainly not a bad presentation, and it is likely going to appeal to a crowd of folks that aren’t overly nitpicky when it comes to the visual and aural quality of it.
- Tim Salmons